Mrs. Steve Jobs Invests $50 Million to Help Reinvent High School

Her project -- XQ: The Super School Project -- is allocating $50 million to encourage ingenuity in schools and provide the tools necessary for knowledge and skills creativity to thrive.

by Sharon Noguchi, San Jose Mercury News / September 16, 2015
Laurene Powell Jobs and actor Jon Hamm speak onstage during the 2nd Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony on November 9, 2014. Jobs has launched XQ: The Super School Project, which aims to discover and create the next-generation American high school. Flickr/Steve Jurvetson
(TNS) -- How we communicate, travel, live, work and play has changed tremendously over the past 100 years. But one institution, high school, seems stuck in the past, operating much like it did a century ago. Laurene Powell Jobs wants to change that in a "radical" way.

On Tuesday, a group funded by Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs and a financier of school reform, pictured at left, launched a multicity tour of an ambitious effort to crowd-source ideas for the next-generation American high school. She is devoting $50 million to XQ: The Super School Project, which invites students, teachers, parents, as well as inventors, architects, entrepreneurs and actually anyone else to submit proposals. After the ideas are sifted, refined and curated, five to 10 will be chosen for funding and put into practice as startup public schools.

The methodology is startlingly uncommon in an era of education apps, platforms, websites, charter schools and online curricula that crop up daily. To orient and elicit ideas from would-be education inventors, the Super School Project has embarked on a national tour from New York City.

The project's interactive "Cube" was set up Tuesday on the steps of the New York Public Library, and soon will visit Washington, D.C.; Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles, among other cities, before arriving Nov. 4 in Oakland.

The ultimate goal, Powell Jobs of Palo Alto said in a statement, is to "foster students who are curious, engaged and creative -- armed with the new literacies, knowledge and skills needed to thrive."

Her nonprofit, the Emerson Collective, funded the initiative's backer, the XQ Institute.

"We are inspired by young people yearning to be prepared for a world they haven't begun to imagine," XQ Institute CEO Russlynn Ali said in a statement. "Communities have the solutions." Ali is former assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education and was executive director of the Education Trust West, an Oakland-based education advocacy group.

Individuals and teams may submit concept papers by Nov. 15, which then may be refined until Feb. 1. XQ will help form teams by matching applicants' skills, experience and ideas. Finalists will be chosen in the spring and winners announced next summer. XQ designers hope non-applicants also will share visions and explore its website to learn about the research and thinking about student learning.

"The success of XQ hinges on bringing together all facets of American ingenuity -- from the best educators," the project's website reads, "to the creative minds who are solving modern problems, addressing crucial issues around rights and equity and innovating for the future."

The XQ Institute plans to fund the winning ideas and to design, build and open new public schools -- either traditional or charter. The locations have not been determined.

©2015 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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